So your kids are growing fast and that nursery furniture will no longer be sufficient to house their Lego collection/dolls house/books/mountain of clothes and school artwork. You need new furniture for your children’s rooms but money is tight – making do isn’t always an option and not everyone is fortunate enough to have older relatives who will gladly hand-down furniture which is no longer needed.
If this is your current situation then you have the option of buying cheap flat-pack furniture that won’t last ten minutes or searching around the classifieds and ebay for any bargains to be had, which could take some considerable time. Another option is to find a free or low cost furniture recycling scheme.
Recycled Children’s Furniture
The current trend for all things green has spawned all manner of services offering to put you in touch with people who want to recycle their old furniture. Although some of them are quite good there are, unfortunately, a few businesses who see the recycling trend as an opportunity to cash-in with premium rate phone services and various other ways of getting money out of people who can least afford it.
Of the service providers who are genuine there is also the old problem of people using them to discard their worthless junk and ‘so-called’ charities which are nothing more than glorified second-hand shops. There are, however, some useful resources out there and if you know where to look you could be furnishing your children’s rooms with good quality furniture for free! Here is a rough guide to who does what.
Recycled Furniture Providers and Resources
Freecycle is the largest and most well known service available with groups all over the UK. This is where you’ll find the greatest choice of items available but it really does depend on where you live as to how useful the service will be. For instance, in Richmond I found a solid wood John Lewis bunk bed on offer straight away. In a less affluent area however you might be waiting a while for something suitable to come along? In some cases there are a lot more wanted ads than there are offers.
Recycle is voucher site operator ASAP’s latest venture into the world of consumer offers and it looks like it could be a useful site. However a nationwide search for a bunk bed returned only one result and I was prompted to phone a premium rate phone number (51p a minute + network charges) to get more details. Do this a few times and you’d be better off just buying the stuff brand new from Argos!
Recycle Your Furniture
Recycle Your Furniture is a service based in the North East which aims to save unwanted furniture items from disposal and give them a new lease of life. They provide a free collection of items they deem suitable and then refurbish them by cleaning and re-painting before putting them for sale on eBay
However, there is very little choice of items suitable for children and the prices are quite high. A pine chest of drawers, for example, was on offer for £120 – about what they would cost to buy new in some DIY stores.
FRN (Furniture Re-use Network)
FRN is a national organisation founded to support and encourage charitable re-use of unwanted items. You can search for local schemes in your own community.
Many of the items on offer have been donated and these are then sold in order to provide funds for the charity concerned. Again, how useful this service is to you will depend largely on where you live. Some of the items offered are not great value really but in some of the more affluent areas you’ll be surprised at the quality of some of the furniture which people are willing to give away.
Freegle uses the Yahoo Groups service to connect local community members around the UK. The concept is fairly simple – you join a local group and offer something you’d like to recycle or simply request if anyone has the item you’re looking for. There is no trading allowed – all items must be freely given, so it’s potentially a great service. However, the number of active members in each group varies from one area to another so it’s a bit hit and miss. The prospect of someone in your group offering a free Stompa cabin bed is pretty remote – but you never know … there are a few stories here that will warm your heart strings.
Freegive is a similar service to Freegle by connecting local groups who offer to give away or swap items they no longer need. Again, trading is discouraged so you really can get something for free. The site has members all over the UK though it would be disingenuous to claim it is a busy community, but given that it is a free service you don’t really have much to lose by giving it a try?
A social enterprise specialising in the re-use of office and school furniture. Although primarily aimed at the commercial end sector, some of the desks and storage furniture on offer is absolutely top-class. And although it isn’t free you can get some study furniture and shelving which will last for years, long after your kids have left the nest.
There are local Facebook groups that offer free, for sale and wanted ads. Many of the sellers are private but there are a few trade ads in there too and it does take a bit of searching to find anything useful, however the advantage is that because the groups are local you don’t have to travel far to find a bargain. I found a solid wood desk with apothecary type drawers for only £30. If you have a Facebook account it’s worth a look to see if your local area has a For Sale, Wanted or Free page.
Is it worth it?
Overall, it’s certainly worth looking around and you can get lucky. Generally speaking the wider you cast your net and the more time you have on your hands then the more likely it is of you getting what you need.
However long established ways of finding second-hand furniture like local classifieds, cards in shop windows and ebay, may prove to be just as economical and a lot less hassle in the long run?